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Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are a type of fat molecule found in coconut oil and palm oil.
Medium-chain fats are saturated, so they are able to tolerate high temperatures without turning rancid. They are also easy to absorb.
You see, even though we begin to digest fat in the mouth (with an enzyme called lingual lipase) most fat is broken down in the small intestine with the help of enzymes and bile from the gallbladder. This includes the long-chain fats that you find in milk, tallow, fatty fish, and olive oil.
But the medium-chain fats found in coconut oil and palm oil are directly absorbed from the intestinal tract and into the liver, where they are used as fuel. (1)
It takes no extra energy for us to absorb and use medium-chain triglycerides.
When recovering from Candida overgrowth, leaky gut, or an overworked liver, we can save valuable energy by including plenty of medium-chain triglycerides in our diet. But is the best source of MCTs always coconut oil?
The Problem with Coconut Oil
If your body can't break down and use fat, it could cause fat malabsorption. Fat malabsorption can lead to a deficiency in fat-soluble vitamins with unpleasant symptoms like diarrhea, bloating, and greasy stool.
In order to digest fat, we need bile, and we need enzymes.
Not everyone can efficiently break down fat—including coconut oil, which contains easy-to-absorb MCTs. The inability to break down and use fat is called fat malabsorption.
Signs of fat malabsorption include:
- Greasy, bulky stool
- Stool with a foul smell
One of the biggest problems associated with fat malabsorption is when we miss out on important fat-soluble vitamins—like vitamins A, D, E, and K. If we cannot properly break down fat, these fat-soluble nutrients go through the body unused.
Unfortunately, a leaky gut and bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine (known as SIBO) can make it hard to digest fat. When the inner ecosystem of the small intestine is wounded, an overgrowth of bacteria can damage bile acids, making it difficult for the body to digest long-chain triglycerides. (2)
The “problem” with coconut oil is that it is not 100% medium-chain triglycerides, meaning it is not 100% absorbable.
Roughly 60% of the triglycerides in virgin coconut oil are:
- Lauric acid, 45%
- Caprylic acid, 7%
- Capric acid, 6 %
Caprylic, capric, and lauric acid are all medium-chain in length. And with assistance from the pancreatic enzyme lipase, they are effortlessly absorbed through the gut wall and into the liver. (3)
Around 20-40% of triglycerides in virgin coconut oil are long-chain. (4) In order for these fats to be used, we need healthy amounts of bile in the small intestine and a thriving inner ecosystem.
Medium-Chain Fats Fight Infection
In 2013, researchers at Kent State University investigated the effects of virgin coconut oil and MCTs on Clostridium difficile, a bacterium that infects the intestines and is resistant to many antibiotics. (5)
Researchers found that coconut oil acts as a strong antimicrobial against C. difficile—but only when it is fully digested.
In other words, coconut oil on its own does little to fight off infection. But once medium-chain triglycerides are broken down by enzymes from the pancreas, they pack a powerful antimicrobial punch.
Indeed, studies show that the medium-chain fatty acids found in lauric and capric acid help combat:
- Systemic viral infection (6)
- Candida overgrowth (7)
- Sexually transmitted diseases, like chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes type 1, and HIV (8)(9)(10)(11)
Upgrade to MCT Oil
One of the best ways to get medium-chain fats like caprylic acid and capric acid into the diet is with Bulletproof® Upgraded™ MCT Oil.
Upgraded™ MCT Oil is made from coconut and palm oil. But unlike coconut and palm oil, Bulletproof® Upgraded™ MCT Oil is fractionated. Fractionation allows producers to separate one fat from another.
Upgraded™ MCT Oil is 100% medium-chain triglycerides and 100% absorbable.
When we struggle with fat malabsorption or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), we have a wounded inner ecosystem. We lose the ability to break down and use fat—including easy-to-absorb coconut oil.
Upgraded™ MCT Oil is a direct fuel source. It puts our digestive system at ease and reduces the burden of too many indigestible fats.
NOTE: Even though MCTs are directly absorbed into the venous system and liver, we still need an enzyme call lipase. (12) Body Ecology recommends supplementing with a pancreatic enzyme to help break down the medium-chain triglycerides in MCT Oil.
If you would like to learn more about Bulletproof® Upgraded™ MCT Oil and gut health, Body Ecology invites you to join Donna Gates at the 2014 Bulletproof Biohacking Conference on Sept 26-28, 2014, in Pasadena, California.
What To Remember Most About This Article:
Coconut oil and palm oil contain fat molecules called medium-chain triglycerides, or MCTs. Medium-chain fats are saturated and easy to absorb. Medium-chain fats in coconut oil and palm oil absorb directly through the intestinal tract and into the liver, where they are used as valuable fuel.
Not everyone has the ability to break down fat, including easily absorbable coconut oil. Signs of fat malabsorption may include diarrhea, greasy stool, bloating, and gas. Fat malabsorption will cause a deficiency in critical fat-soluble vitamins that the body is unable to use.
This is the problem with coconut oil. The renowned oil is not completely made up of medium-chain triglycerides, so it is not 100% absorbable. Coconut oil has an amazing ability to fight off infection if it is fully digested by the body.
Bulletproof® Upgraded™ MCT Oil is the answer. Upgraded™ MCT Oil is made from coconut and palm oil, but it is fractionated to separate one fat from another. Upgraded™ MCT Oil contains 100% medium-chain triglycerides so that it is 100% absorbable. This direct fuel source is best digested with a pancreatic enzyme and probiotic foods, like young coconut kefir and cultured vegetables, to ward off infection.
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- Nagao, K., & Yanagita, T. (2010). Medium-chain fatty acids: functional lipids for the prevention and treatment of the metabolic syndrome. Pharmacological Research, 61(3), 208-212.
- Rana, S. V., & Bhardwaj, S. B. (2008). Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. Scandinavian journal of gastroenterology, 43(9), 1030-1037.
- Bach, A. C., & Babayan, V. K. (1982). Medium-chain triglycerides: an update. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 36(5), 950-962.
- Marina, A. M., Man, Y. C., Nazimah, S. A. H., & Amin, I. (2009). Chemical properties of virgin coconut oil. Journal of the American Oil Chemists' Society, 86(4), 301-307.
- Shilling, M., Matt, L., Rubin, E., Visitacion, M. P., Haller, N. A., Grey, S. F., & Woolverton, C. J. (2013). Antimicrobial effects of virgin coconut oil and its medium-chain fatty acids on Clostridium difficile. Journal of medicinal food, 16(12), 1079-1085.
- Thormar, H., Hilmarsson, H., & Bergsson, G. (2013). Antimicrobial lipids: Role in innate immunity and potential use in prevention and treatment of infections.
- Bergsson, G., Arnfinnsson, J., Steingrı́msson, Ó., & Thormar, H. (2001). In vitro killing of Candida albicans by fatty acids and monoglycerides. Antimicrobial agents and chemotherapy, 45(11), 3209-3212.
- Bergsson, G., Arnfinnsson, J., Karlsson, S. M., Steingrímsson, Ó., & Thormar, H. (1998). In vitro inactivation of Chlamydia trachomatis by fatty acids and monoglycerides. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, 42(9), 2290-2294.
- Bergsson, G., Steingrímsson, Ó., & Thormar, H. (1999). In vitro susceptibilities of Neisseria gonorrhoeae to fatty acids and monoglycerides. Antimicrobial agents and chemotherapy, 43(11), 2790-2792.
- Kristmundsdóttir, T., Árnadóttir, S. G., Bergsson, G., & Thormar, H. (1999). Development and evaluation of microbicidal hydrogels containing monoglyceride as the active ingredient. Journal of pharmaceutical sciences, 88(10), 1011-1015.
- Thormar, H., Bergsson, G., Gunnarsson, E., Georgsson, G., Witvrouw, M., Steingrimsson, O., ... & Kristmundsdóttir, T. (1999). Hydrogels containing monocaprin have potent microbicidal activities against sexually transmitted viruses and bacteria in vitro. Sexually transmitted infections, 75(3), 181-185.
- Mattson, F. H., & Volpenhein, R. A. (1961). The use of pancreatic lipase for determining the distribution of fatty acids in partial and complete glycerides. Journal of Lipid Research, 2(1), 58-62.
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